Any devoted reader of this here blog knows I love a good tale of mystery and suspense. I always have. I can recall being 8 or so on a family trip to Florida. My parents took us to a spring training baseball game and I spent the entire 9 (or is it 900?) innings laying on the bleachers, my face deep in the pages of a Nancy Drew novel. Next came Encyclopedia Brown, The Westing Game and soon I was ransacking the public library for any Mary Higgins Clark book I could get my freakishly long, bony mitts upon. To this day I can't scroll past a "13 Novels to Read if You Loved Gone Girl!" listicle without clicking through and buying at least one of the titles suggested, if not the full baker's dozen.
So it fills me with much glee to find myself in the middle of my very own crime caper!
It all began this summer when I found a skeleton bured beneath the floorboards.
Just kidding. That would be legitimately terrifying. And also probably more exciting than my actual mystery but you can't pick your hauntings, they pick YOU.
It actually all began this summer when I decided to jazz up my wardrobe a bit vis a vis some cute artisan jewelery from the online retailer Etsy.com, specifically from a little shop out of Canada (eh!) called Vintage Acorn. My favorite in the bunch was a necklace with a wooden chevron on a long chain, a versatile piece that compliments everything, be it a professional dress at the office or jorts and a tank top at a music festival, as you can see pictured here in exhibit A:
Photo shared as evidence that a) I owend and wore the necklace in question and b) after years of doubt, it turns off I can totally pull off a summer hat!
I had this necklace on heavy rotation, sporting it a few days a week until one morning I went to toss it on and found the hook where it usually hangs was bare. I searched all of the usual spots - every single handbag, my gym bag, the pockets of all of my jeans. Nothing. I overturned the couch cushions, crawled under the kitchen table, pulled the dresser from the wall, turned my hamper upsidedown and vigourously shook it and nada! Well, I found dozens of pens, hundreds of bobby pins and enough loose change to put a down payment on a single family home in the suburbs but not the one thing I was looking for: my necklace.
I was confounded! Where could it be? Our apartment is not that large, there was nowhere else to look. I swore the last place I'd worn it was to a Mets game (where once again, I watched zero seconds of the actual game, oh, how I've grown since childhood), and worried it must have broken on the commute home, lost forever, fated to become construction material for a new rat motel deep in the depths of the NYC subway system.
A few days later I was meandering down my street when something caught my eye in a little clothes boutique across the way. Curious, I crossed over. And there I saw it, draped around the neck of a headless mannequin in the window: MY FLIMFLAMMIN' NECKLACE!!!
I couldn't believe my own eyes! It looked 100% exactly like my necklace, right down to the gold chain which I sometimes worried was too shiny, but HOW did it end up in that store? Did they break into our house and only walk away with one $15 artisan small batch Etsy necklace? SEEMS DUBIOUS. And yet...
Suddenly memories rushed back to me, like I was that guy in Memento getting over his amensia or whatever. IDK I've never actually seen that movie. I had completely forgotten that after the baseball game, in a low self-esteem frenzy, I had frantically swept through a few stores, on a hunt to find a new dress for a wedding the following weekend. I was going to be seeing a bunch of folks I hadn't seen in years, and thus decided I needed to fully reinvent myself sartiorially and otherwise by spending a lot of money on a new dress I didn't need. (Spoiler alert it did not work and I just wore a dress I already owned and was my usual wine-soaked, weird self, but also now with a $140 Anthropologie dress that I don't even like burning a hole in my bank account. Someone plz remind me to return that before the month is up!)
And then it all made sense. I must have taken off the necklace while in the dressing room and forgotten to put it back on when leaving. It could even have gotten tangled with one of the dresses I'd tried and been mistaken for merchandise. I'm not accusing this store of stealing, per se, but I'd swear on a dogeared copy of Moonlight Becomes Her that was my necklace.
I sprinted home armed with cold, hard, grainy iPhone photo evidence that the greatest heist of all time was happening right under my very nose. And I was going to crack the case.
The next day I dressed myself in my cofidence outfit - jorts (natch) and a grey t-shirt (double natch) with the word "unapolagetic" emblazoned across the front in black script. The tee is made my a designer and blogger I admire, Jolie Ankrom, a mantra and a reminder to stop apologizing, to be more fearless.
I took a deep breath and marched into the store and...immediately apolozied.
"I'm SO sorry, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I can't find my necklace anywhere and I think it's here, in this store? Like, for sale? Over there? SORRY FOR BOTHERING YOU."
I yammered, I stammered. I finally got to my point. She politely (perhaps too politely, covering up her obvious criminal guilt???) opened the cash register to reveal a drawer full of lost jewelery. Was any of it mine?
NO but also all of it was ugly so of course you would hide it an not try to re-sell it. You think you're a criminal master mind?
I'M ON TO YOU.
Finally I got her to take me over to the manequin and show me the necklace. It did not have a price tag (!) or anything identifying the designer (!!) but she assured me it was store stock - from a shipment that had arrived "Tuesday or Wednesday, I think?"
TUESDAY OR WEDNESAY! That is some pretttty conveninet timing, considering I'd been in on Sunday.
Nothing was adding up but, what was I to do? I realized I had one card left to play, to demand to see their invoices, proving they'd actually purchased the necklace. Nancy Drew so would've done it, and probably uncovered some document forging in the process. But I folded. Maybe if it was my wedding ring or some priceless family heirloom I would have pushed for it, but I decided that a $15 Etsy necklace, cute as it may be, was perhaps not worth launching a full-on slander attack and criminal investigation of a lovely local botique.
I apologized, again, for taking up her time and slunk out of the store, defeated. It was then that I realized my "confidence shirt," the one with the bold UNAPOLOGETIC slogan had been inside outthe whole time. GOOD GRIEF. I mean, what would you do if a deranged woman marched into your store with her clothes on the wrong way and started stuttering about stolen jewelry? I'm lucky she didn't call the cops on ME!
When I got home, I did a little more searching and convinced myself that my life as a crimefighter was over, I'd just lost my necklace myself, case closed.
BUT! The next day I couldn't help crossing by on that side of the street, just out of curiosity and when I came to the window, the necklace was gone! They still had the same outfit on display but they'd changed out the necklace. Every single other manequin was dressed exactly the same, accessories and all, the one and only thing amiss was a new necklace, in place of the one I suspected to be mine.
COINCIDENCE? Ok, probably yes.
ORRRRR, I was right the whole time! They are running a largescale crime ring, re-selling the jewels left behind by flaky neighborhood ladies making frenzied shopping sprees after consuming a few too many gigantic beers at Mets Stadium. It's genius! Right under our noses like that, who would suspect a thing??
They were getting away with it but I got too close. They saw me sniffing around and knew the product was hot and they needed to get rid of the evidence, and fast.
But I'll get the last laugh. If I've learned anything from a lifetime of consuming mysteries it is that no crime can stay buried forever. I can wait. I live right across the street and have no hobbies and plenty of time on my hands and soon enough they'll slip up and oh, the case will be finally closed.
In the meantime, I'll be keeping my detective skillz polished by hiring out my investigative services. Any takers? If interested, email me anytime, no case is too big, too small, or too clearly imaginary for me!
Liz HottSauce, P.I.